Away Day Thriller – Morecambe 3 – 2 Imps

Written by Richard Godson

Gary’s on his stag do, which happens to have involved this game, and having seen him before the game, he’s not in any state to string two words together let alone put pen to paper. I’ll write separately about that but for now, there’s a match report to file. First, though, I’ll get my disclaimer in. I don’t have access to Wyscout and have not played the match back or seen any player statistics. This is a report based on a pair of Mark 1 eyeballs and what is left of my ageing memory.

And so to the penultimate game of a season that has been something of the proverbial curate’s egg; good in parts, from the lows of London Road to the highs of Home Park, from bore draws to nine-goal thrillers and everything in between. We’ve had all three results here at Morecambe in the recent past. In March 2018 six hundred and seventy-six travelling supporters (fully 36% of the gate) were treated to a goalless stalemate as we closed in on a League 2 play-off place. Eleven months later, Bruno Andrade’s second brace in a week was enough to secure all three points as the Imps steamrollered their way to the Fourth Division (sorry, League 2) title. Last season, with Morecambe, now also promoted, we met again only for a lacklustre performance to hand a two-goal victory to the Shrimps.

This time, Morecambe are fighting for their League One lives with an adverse goal difference compared to those they are seeking to overhaul meaning it is precious points they need, combined with other results going their way. The hosts came into this encounter off the back of a 3 – 2 win at the Valley in which Carl Stockton’s opener would have been hailed as the goal of the day, were it not for Lasse Sørensen’s sensational effort at Adams Park. For his second he got behind his marker to turn in a sharp pass from Jensen Wier who would later add Morecambe’s third.

The Imps, of course, have hit something of a purple patch of late but came into this game off the back of a lacklustre defeat to Burton Albion in front of a subdued Sincil Bank crowd.

Beforehand, there was something of a carnival atmosphere as Morecambe’s young cheerleaders, The Shrimpettes put on performances both outside the stadium and on the pitch, while numerous nuns and monks along with the Three Amigos, Roy Chubby Brown, a couple of hotdogs and some poor deluded Cod Head who had clearly got lost on the way to Stevenage converged on the away corner.

The Imps’ lineup saw three changes from Tuesday’s defeat to Burton Albion. At the back Roughan came in on the left of the rear trio with O’Connor replacing Jackson in the centre. In midfield Virtue started ahead of Sanders and up front Mândroiu replaced fellow Irishman Dylan Duffy on the left side of the three-man strike force.

The early exchanges were tentative, to say the least, but there was no doubt both sides were determined to play football. At the base of every Lincoln move was Ethan Erhahon but his first-class plans did not always result in first-class execution by his teammates meaning an attack often came to nothing.  Credit to Morecambe though, as they battled hard to disrupt City moves. In fact, neither side seriously threatened the other’s goal until after 25 minutes when Virtue’s shot was saved by Ripley in between the sticks for Morecambe. Not long after Rushworth did well to stop a shot from Jensen Wier who had been put through by the impressive Gnahoua. Barely before you could blink, City were ahead. The architect was Erhahon who picked out Sørensen. This time the Dane executed his mission perfectly, slotting the ball in the right-hand corner of Ripley’s net.

There was plenty of head tennis too but whenever either side got the ball on the carpet, patches of slick play would follow as the teams continued to create chances with both Wier and Mândroiu firing just wide. Mainly though, the City defence seemed able to deal comfortably with any Morecambe threat and you felt a second goal would probably be enough to seal the deal. When going forward, Boyes impressed whether linking with Roughan and Mândroiu or sending passes across the field to Sørensen. Thus ended the first half with City seemingly comfortable and Morecambe heading for the League One exit.

This appeared to be confirmed within three minutes of the restart as the Imps, who came back out several minutes after Morecambe, doubled their advantage. Shodipo showed persistence on the left and having had a cross blocked, collected the ball back and passed it diagonally back to Virtue whose low drive from outside the box gave Ripley no chance. Done and dusted.

Or so we thought. Within little more than a minute Stockton, who had been well marshalled by O’Connor in particular during the first half, found himself in space and on the end of a sharp pass. His recent return to form was confirmed as he fired over Rushworth to reduce the arrears. All of a sudden the home team and their supporters began to believe as mistakes began to creep into the visitors’ play. Rushworth was lucky to get away with a fumble and then a slip as the Shrimps sought an equaliser and Crowley, who had a good game, evaded his man in the box only for his shot rebound of the post.

Still, both sides strove to strike the next blow as the game moved from end to end. Erhahon was the originator of a fine move which led to Sanders (on for Shodipo) finding Mândroiu whose shot shaved the outside of the goalpost. It wasn’t long before City would rue this missed chance. Oumar Niasse’s header from a cross-looped over Rushworth and Morecambe were level.

Still, the game could have gone either way and ten minutes after the equaliser city almost got their noses in front again. A cross from Roughan was met by the head of O’Connor. The ball rebounded off the crossbar and fell to Poole who fired over.

In the latter stages of an increasingly attritional encounter in which quarter was neither asked nor given, casualties mounted and the card count escalated (ending up at three all), it was the hosts who broke the deadlock. The Shrimps won a free kick in midfield as O’Connor was deemed to have fouled an opponent in winning a header. Up stepped Ash Hunter who had replaced the industrious Crowley with a kick seemed that to be radar-guided onto the head of that man Stockton and past Rushworth into the City net, to give the home supporters hope.

City, who to their credit had not indulged in any time wasting, were eager to restart the game as quickly as possible. Morecambe had the ball and were reluctant to return it to the centre spot, much to the frustration of House who resorted to some wrestling moves in an effort to recover it. Fortunately, the referee had his back turned and his assistant on the dugout side, who had a clear view, declined to become involved and the young striker was fortunate not to pick up a booking or worse.

As the clock ticked around to 90 minutes, the fourth official’s board signalled 8 minutes of time added on. This was hardly surprising given the delay between the final goal and the restart coupled with a passable impression of Paul Farman by Morecambe keeper Ripley. Moreover, this was the signal for further substitutions with Makama coming on for Virtue and Duffy replacing Boyes. As City pressed for a last-gasp equaliser, he and Mândroiu came together and a further delay followed as treatment was administered to Ripley’s head and Mândroiu’s leg. The young Irishman came off the worst and was helped off to be replaced by Plange.

It wasn’t long before the referee had seen enough (he wasn’t alone in that respect) and blew for time. So ended another frustrating encounter which an hour earlier had seemed pretty routine and the Imps were left to lick their wounds. It wasn’t a bad performance so much as one which had a touch of ‘after the lord mayor’s show’ about it. I started with a reference to the proverbial curate’s egg and that really sums up both the game and the season. It has also been said that this team is a work in progress and on this evidence, I cannot disagree.

I will just say the referee didn’t put a foot wrong and I’ll not object if he officiates a game of ours in the not-too-distant future.

One man in particular stood out and I’d be surprised if Stacey West readers don’t vote Ethan Erhahon as their man of the match. He was the source of so much of City’s attacking play and on more than one occasion was instrumental in sparing our blushes as Morecambe broke to spring a counterattack. Definitely the signing of the season.

Shodipo was industrious until replaced in the second half. He was disappointed to have to leave the stage but a quick refrain of Tequila/Shodipo as he passed the visiting fans saw him perk up visibly. The time had come for Mr Kennedy to shuffle his pack and his replacement, Sanders livened up City’s midfield. Boyes too, impressed in what must surely be his penultimate or possibly final game in our version of red and white. Both loanees have played their part in the second half of the season and I wish them well in whatever capacity next season.

I was pleased to see Makama given a run-out. He should be part of Lincoln’s future and impresses me every time I see him. He has stature and a silky style that will continue to develop as he matures.

In the end, though, this was a game Morecambe wanted and perhaps more importantly, needed to win more than Lincoln did. And win it they did. Their League One destiny is still out of their hands and all they can do now is go to Exeter, win and then hope other results go their way. They didn’t exactly today with both varsity sides and Franchise all winning. Cambridge won by the odd goal in three at Accrington, Oxford hit three unanswered goals past Tofu United while McDons shared the spoils with Barnsley in an eight-goal thriller.

There was a chant in the away corner which I have heard sung over the last couple of weeks as our own League One destiny was secured. It goes “We’re not going down and we’re not going up. We’re Lincoln City and we’re off to the pub”. I suppose that rather sums up the day because that’s where I’m off now.